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Bluetooth, We Hardly Knew Ye

Dan Jones
LR Mobile News Analysis
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor

Following up on the technologies we think will capture some of the spotlight in 2006 (See Technologies to Watch in 2006), we've compiled a short list of the ones that have been overhyped, have failed to meet expectations, or have simply run their course. Here are the technologies you can wave a fond, or not so fond, farewell to:

802.11b: The original WiFi specification, the one that started it all back in 1999, has had its moment. The specification has already been largely supplanted by the faster 802.11g specification in the laptop and access point market, but still lives on in some phones, PDAs, and consumer electronics devices.

In all likelihood 2006 will be the year that PDA users demand the extra horsepower provided by g, and WiFi phone users look to 802.11a for the additional bandwidth it provides for VOIP applications.

Either way, it's buh-bye to b.

Bluetooth: The short-range wireless technology is moving closer and closer to essentially becoming a component of Ultra-Wideband (UWB)(See Bluetooth's White Flag). We predict it won't be a separate entity by end of the year.

Now, if only we could get rid of those dorks with the clip-on Bluetooth headsets as easily.

The "Fat" Enterprise Access Point: Sales of wireless LAN switches and the "skinny" access points (APs) they control have been climbing throughout 2005. Now, with all the major vendors offering some form of switch and managed AP architecture, we could see start to see the standalone AP start to become far less common in the corporate environment.

Of course, there are --and will continue to be -- large legacy deployments of "fat" APs deployed in the enterprise. And for smaller applications it continues to make sense to use one or two "intelligent" APs.

But for 2006, thin is in.

MP3 Cellphones: Seriously, what a lousy idea, bringing you the worst features of mobile phones and portable music players in one unwieldy package. And you're even more screwed if you lose it.

The Pringles Can Antenna: Homemade WiFi signal boosters used to be one of the big signifiers of the independent nature of the wireless LAN community.

You won't see them around much longer. Partly because WiFi signals are getting stronger in themselves (see 802.11b, above), and partly because there are many inexpensive commercial options available.

This is also a sign of commercial forces dampening the pioneering, do-it-yourself ethic of 802.11 -- especially now that that service providers, vendors and governments have invaded the home turf of early WiFi nuts and are looking to provide free community access through municipal mesh networks.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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12/5/2012 | 4:10:24 AM
re: Bluetooth, We Hardly Knew Ye
It's nice to see that wireless standards still generate column space, but I think a little too much Christmas port may have been imbibed before this one hit the screen. They're nice theories, but IGm not convinced they reflect reality.

buh-bye to b? What most users haven't spotted is that their Wi-Fi is frequently running at .b levels. .g is an addition to the .b standard, so .b is always there. Despite what the go-faster stripes and alphabet soup may say on the box, as soon as there's any interference or loss of range, your Wi-Fi units will step back down to .b anyway. So while it might be invisible, itGs definitely still there.

Will phones go to 802.11a? I doubt they will anytime soon. 802.11a does not provide any more bandwidth - .g and .a both use the same OFDM encoding to get their symbol rate of 54Mbps. The advantage .a has is that it uses the 5.1GHz band, which is relatively uncluttered at the moment. However, it's unlikely that the mobile phone community will go for it as the 5.1GHz transceivers consume around 50% more current than the 2.4GHz ones for the same range. Add to that the fact that hardly any of the Wi-Fi hotspots support .a, so an 802.11a VoIP phone wouldn't have anything to connect to, and thereGs not a lot of obvious momentum. (Although I can see the network operators liking the concept of a non-connectable 802.11a only handset.)

I'd love to see Bluetooth encompass UWB by the end of the year, but seeing real products in that timescale's just wishful thinking. ThereGs a basic fact that gets ignored which is that UWB is not going to get regulatory approval outside the US until around 2008, and the mobile phone manufacturers aren't going to touch it until it becomes global. So until then itGs likely that the volumes will be low, meaning it will probably remain niche.

CES 2006 will certainly showcase the first UWB products in the US, as start-up chip companies desperately try to flog something. But there are still two competing, incompatible radio standards and even more incompatible higher layer stacks, so they are likely to be little more than "statement" products, mainly for the PC geeks and to impress the VCs.

You can argue the toss of who is moving closer to whom. The good news is that there seems to be a growing understanding that it makes more sense to share and re-use technology G at the end of the day what matters is that it is mature and stable for the user, not speed to market or pleasing the analysts. And at 10 million Bluetooth chip shipments a week, many of which are going into headsets, IGd be careful about calling too many of your readers dorks.
As for the demise of the Pringles tube, when did you last go down to Circuit City or Frys? Last time I looked over 30% of the shelf space for WLAN was taken up with high power antennae and signal boosters. (Most of which are technically illegal to use.) The only difference from the Pringles tube is that as the market matures these get tarted up, shrink wrapped and given a brand name rather than being homemade. And on the bit about signals getting stronger, the reverse is the case. Whereas 802.11b products normally run at +18dBm, most .11g ones only run at +12dBm, as the PAs step down the power to meet the OFDM modulation requirements. As I pointed out above, unbeknownst to most users, if you try for greater range, your Access Point will automatically step back down to 802.11b.

MP3 Cellphones? Time will tell whether itGs a lousy idea that results in Nokia, Samsung and Motorola collapsing, but the advantage of users losing both at once is surely that they have a chance of getting a life again. Would that really screw you up?

Which just about wraps it up. Sorry about pointing out reality G it was a fun read for Christmas. Just remember to wear the crap detectors when you walk around CES.

Nick Hunn
CTO G Ezurio Ltd
12/5/2012 | 4:09:12 AM
re: Bluetooth, We Hardly Knew Ye
my email address is [email protected]
12/5/2012 | 4:09:12 AM
re: Bluetooth, We Hardly Knew Ye
hi, can someone send me a copy of 802.11g mrd please, i'd really appreciate it. thanks!
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